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zac was more essentially poetic than his predecessors. He was not merely content with the mystery of psychology and the glories of action, he perceived also the significance of namesyou remember Z. Marcas-and of streets and the enchantment of great cities. He was aware of the massed opinion which makes a movement. discerned the great in the small; the small in the great. He wrote his epic amid the débris of the French Revolution, a débris which had been hastily covered over with the tawdry counterpane of the Second Empire.
We are faced with somewhat similar conditions. Not even Balzac was confronted by such an accumulation of raw material. The great Victorian novelists smiled tranquilly down on the industrial welter of their time and, shining with the reflected sunset of the Romantic revival, continued with few exceptions along the lines of the Georgian tradition. The raw material went on accumulating; it was dismissed from the consideration of artists as ugly: but unless the novelist of to-day tried to extract the poetry from it, this accumulation will be apt to swamp art, as indeed was once very nearly the case. The novel probably originated in a desire to balance the claims of the heroic with the admission of the commonplace through the medium of contemporary manners. This desire, at any rate, served the purpose of the two centuries that preceded our own. The claims of the heroic were still sufficiently perceptible in the conspicuousness of individual life. But gradually, as with less dexterous hands unreality enveloped the heroic and sentiment clouded the commonplace, the novel betrayed signs of expiring from inanition. It is not so easy for our present novelists to protect the claims of the heroic as many critics would have them believe. The novelist of to-day, if he be sincere
and of a wide vision, has to deal with huge masses of conjoined individualities, with the personality of mobs and movements, with the appalling inhumanity of human aggregations. Unquestionably Balzac tried to grapple with this problem of art when he sought to classify mankind in types and to partition society into organic groups.
To a certain ensured their of sympathy.
There is a widely diffused and frequently voiced grievance that to-day we have no great men. extent the Victorians greatness by their want This is not a paradox. They always remained serene; they were never feverish. But then they had nothing much to excite them, except Free Trade and Popular Education and an Extended Franchise-academic reforms to them: to us vital problems. Balzac alive and how much alive!-between the Revolution and the Commune, the most feverish personality of a feverish epoch, was never a professional great man like so many of his English contemporaries. I am not trying to sneer at the Victorians-they were always glorious artists: but Thackeray was not a poet; George Eliot was not a poet; Dickens and Meredith ceased to be poets. They were, indeed, great novelists; but they were so great that they have made it almost impossible for modern novelists to recover from the responsibility of their greatness. I shall make myself clearer when I say that for me Thomas Hardy is the greatest of them all, for Thomas Hardy gave the present something to work on, to develop. He is a poet, a very great poet, and for that reason he may be called a productive genius.
Consider now the poetry of what to most of the Victorians was either rhetoric or logic. Consider the stress of our period with the rush of education, the multiplicity of newspapers, the increasing publicity, the helter-skelter
criticism, the swift veering of popular ideals, the racking fatigue, and all the ills of democracy many times magnified beyond the gloom of the great pessimists of the past, flung at our heads together with virtues and triumphs undreamed of before they were beheld. When you think that Mrs. Browning was so much overcome by her first sight of Paddington Station that she took to her bed for some days to recover from it, it is not surprising that the writers of the present have not yet secured a foothold, that they still seem to evade their opportunities, that they appear to hesitate, that artistic experiments are manifold. Yet they are all searching for one thing-the poetry of it all; and by the poetry of the present will the novel survive. If Life and Art were really as easy as they appear after reading The Spectator, no doubt the sensitive critic would be spared the unpleasantness of many harsh experiments. Nevertheless, these experiments are signs of vitality.
Mr. Kipling was the first of the moderns to formulate his ideals. He turned with disgust from the infective Liberalism that fell to pieces in 1892, and tried to balance the claims of the heroic Imperialist with the admission of the commonplace soldier. He flashed his prose like a heliograph to the ends of the earth, and in a few weeks all that he had helped to build up crumbled in the disaster and disillusionment of the Boer War. Since then he has claimed for the present nothing heroic. His conception was rooted in poetry, but not so deeply as to reach that subsoil which was so soon to come to the surface and kill with rankness the flowers of Imperialism. This subsoil must be made fertile by the poets of to-day. It must be worked and dug and cultivated experimentally, so that soon, if not in our generation, the rankness will be sweet LIVING AGE. VOL. LVI. 2927
and fit for flowers. And poetry is showing signs that no longer is it content to chirp in a golden cage of romance, no longer is it afraid to trail what pinions are left in the mud of reality. The legend of public indifference to verse is slowly being disproved, and soon, we may trust, our poets will not mope silent for evermore after the striking of a few soft and melancholy chords. But poetry does not depend on verse. This must inevitably be primarily an age of prose, because, as I said before, prose labors more heavily to beget itself: and this raw age can scarcely yet be conscious of its own patterns and rhythms. Poetry, in its purest form, poetry in verse, will doubtless be written by men unborn who, regarding from a more tranquil future the travail of the present, will weave immortally its pattern. Soon action must be heightened, and drama will burst forth to accompany appropriately the characteristic of that period. Days of swift action will need nights of drama, the intensification of poetic action. Possibly our contemporary lyrical poets are culpable for the neglect of verse. They are, perhaps, more numerous and more generally accomplished than ever before, but they lack that singing note which is born from triumph and achievement, as when a skylark sings loudest at his topmost altitude. We should look to the lyric, if not for triumph, at least for aspiration in its purest expression: too much of our lyric poetry is a sad complaint. This age has not yet been proved a failure; and if sometimes one is overwhelmed by the contemplation of fled glories, how encouraging is it to stand on the steps of the Albert Memorial, glad to give the Victorians all they had in an almost Pharisaic selfcongratulation.
After all, if there are greater difficulties for the contemporary artist to surmount, there is more material to in
spire him. I question, to be content with a trivial example, whether the Tube is not almost the finest adventure of travel which the world has known. For me, certainly, every journey is an Odyssey from the moment I enter the lift, with its subtle variations of mood—the subdued gaiety of expectation about half-past seven in contrast with the lassitude of the afternoon-the personalities of the liftmen, and the curious intimacy and relaxation of by-laws late at night. There is the waiting on the tempestuous platform, the Cyclopean eye of the advancing train, the adventure of boarding, the fastidiousness in the choice of a neighbor, the sense of equality, the mysterious and flattering reflection of oneself in the opposite windows, and even the colors of the various stations -from the orange and lemon of Covent Garden to the bistre melancholy of Caledonian Road, or Camden Town faintly cerulean like an autumnal sky. Surely the poetic novelist should never be called upon to defend his instinct for decoration when the stark realities are so full of suggestive color.
But, indeed, the external poetry of the modern novel suffers still from an imputation of bastardy. Many critics view decorative prose in the same way as certain mistresses observe the feathered hat of a parlor-maid en fête and free. For many critics realism has certain epithets which stick fast as burrs. It must always be gray and sordid and depressing; sometimes, under the excitement of a larger vocabulary, it is also mean and squalid. One is inclined to think that truth is made to depend on the opinion of a majority. For my part, I believe that "realism" is the substance or abstraction of a familiar theme or object treated justly—that is, without extravagance, but also without superficiality. Much modern realism is simply nominalism too easily content with
what the unimaginative majority choose to call the familiar theme or object.
Perhaps I am laying too much stress on the externals of poetry: for it is not to be supposed that an eye for color will make a novelist into a poet. I should be like the followers of Victor Hugo who, when some poet first read his verses to the critical circle, sat in silence until the newcomer came to the epithets "jaune et bleu." Then they broke into loud applause and voted him a true poet. Mere "blue and yellow" does not make poetry. We must have that perfection of expression completely coinciding with the capacity for experience, the sense of tranquillity and the power of contemplation.
It may be worth while to apply the test of these four qualities to the modern novel. Sometimes I think that the first is the most generally neglected. I do feel that we are too charitable towards bad writing, too ready to condone bad craftsmanship, if the matter be good. Beautiful words and the beautiful arrangement of words solidified by precision and judgment in their application must more than ever be emphatically demanded now. I do not believe one little bit in the value of undisciplined autobiography, of jejune self-revelation. At the moment we are far too ready, from a natural eagerness to appreciate the new elements in our society, from our excitement at reaping the first harvest of universal education, to overlook the absence of art and, adopting a miserable cliché, to say, "Here is life-a finer thing than literature." I wish that this detestable premiss whose only logical conclusion is the cinematograph in combination with the gramophone could be killed. Ars longa, vita brevis is a more admirable platitude. One is tired of these introspective muffin-men chaperoned by leading novelists, of these communicative peers vouched for
. by their publishers.
If we disdain the craft of letters, the power of style, the austerity, the discipline, the merely academic routine, the heritage of great works of art that survived the little lives of their creators-if we disdain all these, we shall not find in any poet or novelist a quality that will compensate for their loss. Those twin spirits, beauty of language and beauty of form, must be eternally pursued. They will run often in contrary directions, but with the capture of one the pursuit of the other must be urged the faster. They are both necessary.
We come to the capacity for experience. That does not mean experience itself. A guide is not more trustworthy because he has fallen down a precipice; but if he has been aware of the possibility, and contemplated the result, he will be more trustworthy than the guide who has never observed the precipice until the occasion of his swift and final descent. It is wonder that gives the poet and the child capacity for experience. The poetic novelist will give this sense of wonder to his readers. He will teach them to be surprised by life through literature. The false realist and unpoetic novelist always truckles to the expected. has no capacity for experience. merely records the commonplace without heeding the claims of the heroic. The poetic novelist must not only give his readers wonder, he must at the same time preserve his sense of tranquillity. The fervid and lyrical presentation of life in high moods will only be valuable in proportion to the degree of sanity in static moments. The poetic novelist will never relax his hold upon the normal, whatever fiery page of prose may seem for a moment to loosen his grip. Shakespeare meant more than dramatic contrast when the drums of Fortinbras were heard at the close of Hamlet. This sense of tran
quillity is very necessary in an age of fever. The false realist will be infected by the turbulence and discontent and misery. The poetic novelist will perceive rather the dignity of the poor, will hear the inexorable and majestic tread of labor, and admire the nobility of endurance.
Lastly, for the poet remains the power of contemplation. Armed with this, he may survey not merely the world as from a mountain-top, but also his own work-the microcosm of his world, while the false realist regards himself in a mirror. I had almost said a newspaper.
I am convinced that the modern novel lives only by the poetry which gives it life. It is not enough to trace, however accurately, the contours of the surface. It is not enough to record a chronicle of facts. It is not enough to reflect in a work of art the observation of the commonplace mind of the majority. Truth is always beautiful, but truthfulness may be often very ugly. The realistic novelist might accurately see in the coal strike merely the misery of the unemployed, the gauntness of starvation, the dislocation of traffic, the obstinacy of the miners and the owners, the effectiveness or fatuity of Mr. Asquith. But another realistic novelist might imagine the muttering of Labor as it turns restlessly after centuries of dull sleep, and the force of Capital at bay. He might laugh at the vanities and follies of all statesmen, the ecstasies and lamentations of divergent opinions.
One might go on for ever illustrating the difference between the false realist and the poetic novelist, and at the end of it be no nearer the truth than Aristotle's dictum that Art should be universal. I find one always comes back to Aristotle. But the modern novel will achieve universality through poetry, for poetry is immortality in a radiance of words. Poetry is life
itself, and as I make this assertion all my definitions seem to be melting in criticism; but I shall console myself The English Review.
with the reflection that poetry is ultimately undefinable, just as life is ultimately inexplicable.
AT THE SALON AND THE ROYAL ACADEMY.
It may be remembered that when my friends Sir John and Lady Bilderby' made the tour of the Salon picture galleries last year, under the wing of M. de L'Atelier, they had not time (or shall we say space?) to examine the sculpture. I am sure they did so afterwards; but to say truth, it is rather too common with English visitors to an exhibition to devote nearly all their time to the pictures, and only spare a hurried glance at the sculpture before leaving. This is hardly fair to the sculptors (who, however, in England, are pretty well used to neglect and indifference); but it is also unfair to themselves, as starving their own æsthetic education, in neglecting a form of art which deals much more largely with abstract symbolism than modern painting usually does. For though the great end of all art is symbolism and not realism, painting is founded on realism to begin with; and so many spectators (and some painters) get no further than the half-way house, and are content with outward shows of life, their appreciation of which may be reduced to the shorthand form, "it is like," or "it is not like":
That's the very man! Look at the boy who stoops to pat the dog:
and so on. It is an innocent recreation, which makes no great strain on the intellect (though, be it remembered, the producing of it means considerable ability and severe training on the part of the painter); and so painting is nat1 "Conversations at the Salon and Royal Academy," by H. Heathcote Statham, Nineteenth Century and After, June 1911.
urally the more popular art. sculpture, in spite of the fact that it deals with actual form in the round instead of the projection of form on a plane surface, cannot pretend to the realistic representation of life which appeals to everyday experience. It is a severely limited art, dealing with severely designed form, executed in a monumental material; dealing more especially with the nude human figure, in which alone precision of line is of such importance and difficulty as to justify the monumental material; many things may be worth painting which it is not worth while to carve in marble. Sculpture may thrive on mere beauty of form-that is achievement enough to justify it; but its highest aim is the symbolizing of an idea through human form-an aim which is not readily appreciated by the popu lar mind, on this side of the Channel at all events. In France it may be, for at the Salon there is more of symbolic sculpture than is to be found elsewhere, and that would hardly be the case did not such work find encouragement and sympathy.
Let us then, this time, begin our brief survey with the sculpture, which in fact is the strongest element at the Salon. The vast sculpture hall contains, as usual, nearly a thousand works in sculpture (960, to be precise) prepared for one year's exhibition-an extraordinary testimony to the artistic energy and vitality of the French nation. French sculpture is perhaps not all that it was ten or fifteen years ago, but in the present exhibition you cannot move many steps in any direction